Scott Friedman, NBC 5 Investigates
Serious safety threats were found in some Dallas apartments after NBC 5 Investigates revealed hundreds of buildings listed as overdue for inspection.
The City of Dallas has inspected hundreds of Dallas apartment buildings after an NBC 5 Investigation last spring revealed a list of buildings past due for required safety checks.
Once Dallas Code Compliance checked those buildings, the majority of them passed inspection. But about three dozen buildings received failing scores, some due to serious safety concerns, according to records NBC 5 Investigates obtained through an open records request.
City code requires the buildings are inspected once every three years. In buildings that were found to have not been inspected on the city-mandated schedule, the records obtained by NBC 5 Investigates show inspectors recently found exposed wiring, missing or malfunctioning smoke alarms, roach infestations, exposed or rotted wood and missing handrails.
Last spring, NBC 5 Investigates filed a records request with Dallas Code Compliance asking for a list of every apartment building in the city and the date it was last inspected. The records revealed as many as 280 apartment buildings listed as past due for inspection. However, the exact number was hard to determine because city records were full of conflicting dates and missing or incorrect information.
The records showed the Dallas Department of Code Compliance had fallen behind on inspections in the department’s Central District, an area mostly east of Central Expressway and north of Downtown Dallas.
Homeowners in the area complained deteriorating apartment buildings were negatively impacting property values and they argued the city should be doing more to push apartment owners to comply with building code rules.
Members of the City Council, the City Manager’s office and Code Compliance all promised action.
“Well number one, it's a concern and number two, it's something we, the city, must, must correct immediately and try to catch up on the backlog so we can keep people safe,” City Councilman Dwaine Carraway told NBC 5 in May.
The city ramped up inspections over the summer and fall and said it has improved its record keeping and inspection process.
"Code Compliance has strengthened its procedures to regularly review progress on inspections at a higher level in management in order to ensure that work is performed in a timely manner,” said Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata.
Zapata said 20 buildings that failed inspection had to be inspected again. All but one of those buildings has passed inspection now and the remaining building will be checked again in the coming days.
“I think it made a tremendous difference for people that they, they're getting quality and a service that they're supposed to be getting already,” said Susie Hughes who used to help run the city’s apartment inspection program before becoming a private consultant who works with apartment building owners to help them address code enforcement issues.
Since NBC 5 began investigating the Dallas inspection program, Hughes said she's noticed a change.
“I’ve heard some people say they finally got an inspection that they haven't had in quite a few years,” said Hughes.
Some of the landlords inspected said it's helped make things better.
“They came in and told us what was going on and gave us time to fix it. Put down on paper what I need to do so I could keep track of it. It all worked out great,” said Myles Phelps, a landlord in East Dallas.
Phelps said the improvements he made after the inspection not only helped attract more renters, it made the neighborhood better.
“We feel good that our home is becoming stronger now. It's not becoming complacent to where it could go backwards. Now all we do is move forward," said Phelps.
Last spring NBC 5 Investigates also discovered a high-rise apartment building in Uptown Dallas that didn't show up on the city's inspection list at all. That building has since been checked and passed inspection.
Code Compliance said it’s working on its master lists to make sure buildings are not left off of the inspection list in the future.
“Now that they're back on track, that's a good thing for everyone,” said Hughes.